Trade bodies move to curb ad misplacement despite discord over regulation

ISBA and the IPA have moved ahead in setting online brand safety protocols in the wake of high-profile ad misplacement scandals after earlier disagreements with the IAB over how online ad placement policies are verified stalled efforts to achieve a pan-industry consensus.   

Talks to between trade bodies to establish cross-industry guidelines to protect brands online have been put on hold, according to sources.

The IPA and ISBA have agreed a set of protocols to improve online brand safety and have certified online ad sales house Ad2One as compliant with its recently launched brand safety guidelines to ensure ads don’t appear against offensive content, following the ABC independently verifying the sales house’s processes. 

Ad2One is the first company to receive such a vote of confidence under the joint initiative after earlier efforts to agree best practice principles along with the IAB, under the Digital Standards Trading Group (DTSG) banner, hit difficulty over transparency. Parties within the IAB favour a self-regulatory process towards minimising online ad misplacement in opposition to the IPA and ISBA which favour independent verification

Online ad misplacement has made national headlines and associated tier one brands with increasingly negative headlines multiple times in recent weeks. Just last week brands including BT, EDF Energy and Specsavers were among several brands to pull advertising from social media site after it was linked to the suicide of cyberbullying victim Hannah Smith.

Meanwhile earlier in the year Facebook was hurriedly forced to amend its content moderation policies after the Everyday Sexism Project successfully lobbied up to 13 brands, including Nationwide and Nissan, to pull ads from the social network to protest against content advocating violence against women on its pages. 

Meanwhile, the pan-industry DTSG initiative is currently in a state of “abeyance”, it has been on hold since the start of April, although there is ongoing dialogue between the three trade bodies involved over how it can be “reactivated” and come up with a more universally accepted method of preventing such occurrences, according to Nigel Gwilliam, IPA head of digital. 

He says: “There were a number of things we [the IPA and ISBA] couldn’t agree on [with the IAB] but we have been in conversation over how this can be addressed.” 

However, in the interim, both the IPA and ISBA have started granting certification to third parties that have agreed to its protocols and are then verified by a trusted independent third party, namely by ABC, a measure taken as

The IPA, whose members handle over 90 per cent of online display media buying in the UK, and ISBA, which represents over 400 UK brands, hope their existing proposed model will evolve into a cross-industry norm but the IAB currently sounding its membership for opinion on which model to advocate, this is likely to a self-regulatory model, and is understood to be publicly airing its conclusions next month.  

Earlier this year, Nick Stringer, IAB head of regulatory affairs, told Marketing Week the trade body wanted to establish a set of guidelines that reflected the growing diversity of the market. This involves measures to include companies such as third-party ad servers and the development of programmatic-buying, which were extremely nascent when the earlier Internet Advertising Sales Houses (IASH) governance body closed in 2011.     

This could potentially lead to a split in the number of protocols online ad companies are asked to adhere to and lead to further confusion in the already complex world of online ad trading and placement posing further reputation risk to brands whose ads may appear next to inappropriate content.



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